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Joey Logano on title hopes: ‘We’re the favorite now to win’

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — The driver who won only once in the first 32 races this season says he’ll be the one to beat for the championship next weekend in Miami.

When the playoffs started, I kind of felt like we were an underdog of making it and honestly the last six or seven weeks we’ve led a lot more laps, we’ve won a lot of stages, won a race, was fast at Kansas, was fast at Texas, you know what, I think we’re the favorite now to win,’ “ Joey Logano said this week.

“And I think it’s so crazy to think that it can change that quick, but we are the one team that has been able to say we’re locked in the last couple of weeks. I can promise you, I haven’t watched any Phoenix tape when I flew out here. I was focused on one race.”

Chase Elliott isn’t impressed with Logano’s assertion, saying: “I don’t really care what he thinks.”

Martin Truex Jr. said of Logano’s claim: “Good for him. I don’t think that’s the case.”

Kyle Busch said of Logano’s comment:  “He can be the favorite if he wants to.”

Logano has scored more points than any driver in the playoffs at 342. Next is Truex at 301.

Logano also has recorded six consecutive top-10 finishes and led more than 40 percent of the laps the past three races. He is the only driver locked into the championship race after NASCAR’s penalty this week stripped Kevin Harvick’s berth to Miami with his Texas win.

Harvick now holds the final transfer spot heading into Sunday’s race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC). He has a three-point lead on Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch.

Logano says that Harvick could face a challenge without crew chief Rodney Childers, who has been suspended for the next two races and went to Twitter on Friday to share his side of the matter

“I think there can be a hiccup in communication,” Logano said of Harvick being without his crew chief and car chief, who also was suspended with the Texas penalty. “You guys know how it is when you know somebody for a very long time you can almost look at them and know what they’re thinking or hear in their tone maybe during the race and that’s not really going to be there. 

“Obviously, they’ll be in communication with Rodney, but it’s not going to be very quick by the time it goes one way or the other and you know the way things get lost in translation sometimes on the phone compared to being face-to-face. You’re going to have those situations, and it’s for the next two races. I’d say it’s a big hit for them, but I’d also feel like that car is going to make it through as fast as they are and going to their best race track.”

Even so, Logano suggests this is the year he scores his first Cup title.

NASCAR America: Assessing Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus’ historic tenure

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After 17 years, seven Cup championships and 81 wins, the checkered flag will wave on Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus this weekend.

Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will mark the final time Johnson and Knaus will work together as driver and crew chief.

In 2019, Johnson will be paired with Kevin Meendering while Knaus will work with William Byron on the No. 24 team.

On NASCAR America, three-time Cup champion and Hall of Fame crew chief Ray Evernham and Kyle Petty discussed the legacy of the Johnson-Knaus pairing and how it compares to what was accomplished by Richard Petty and crew chief Dale Inman and Jeff Gordon and Evernham.

“The most underrated record in this sport is five (championships) in a row,” Petty said, referring to the No. 48 team’s title run from 2006-10. “Nobody gives them enough credit, I just don’t think so. … The crew chief job that Ray did is a completely different job than what Chad does. The crew chief job that Chad does, Dale Inman wouldn’t even recognize it in 1967, ’68.”

Said Evernham: “Jimmie and Chad are right there with those guys. Without a doubt it’s Petty-Inman, Johnson-Knaus. What Jeff I did together was great, but we weren’t together that long. … To me it’s incredible to win that many championships, not just mechanically, but what it takes emotionally to do that. To hold those teams together and be that good for that many years is to me incredible. That’s longer than most marriages.”

Watch the above video for more.

 

NASCAR penalty report from Phoenix

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NASCAR has fined two crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts last weekend at ISM Raceway.

In the Cup Series, Luke Lambert was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut on Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet.

In the Xfinity Series, David Elenz was fined $5,000 for one unsecured lug nut on Tyler Reddick‘s No. 9 Chevrolet.

There were no other penalties announced.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Miami preview, Richard Petty and Dale Inman

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to set up the final race weekend of the year in Miami.

Marty Snider hosts with Kyle Petty and Ray Evernham from Charlotte.

On today’s show:

  • We’ll discuss the final race together for Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus, and their lasting impact on NASCAR. Another legendary driver/crew chief combo, Richard Petty and Dale Inman, give their take on the success of their fellow seven-time champions.

  • It’s the final NASCAR race for Elliott Sadler. The panel, including Sadler’s former boss Ray Evernham, share their fondest memories of the 24-year NASCAR veteran.

  • Plus, we’ll reveal the final three members of this season’s Pit Crew All-Stars.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

‘A lot of tears shed’ as Furniture Row Racing departs for last Cup race

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The final chapter in Furniture Row Racing’s history began overnight as the team’s hauler embarked on its journey from Denver, Colorado, to Miami for Sunday’s Cup season finale (3 p.m ET on NBC).

The race, where Martin Truex Jr. will compete in the Championship 4, will mark the 451st and final Cup race for the team that owner Barney Visser started in 2005. The team announced Sept. 4 that it would cease operations at the end of the year due to a lack of sponsorship.

Truex will try to deliver the team’s second consecutive Cup title.

The team’s farewell at the Denver shop was marked by a large gathering of team members.

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for how emotional it was (Tuesday) night when we loaded up,” crew chief Cole Pearn said Wednesday in a teleconference. “I think we’ve just been head down, kind of pushing super hard, trying to do everything we can to get ready for this weekend, and once it was in the truck and saw the lift gate up, there was a lot of tears shed and a lot of sad faces, and I think all of us really realized that that was the last time we were going to do it together as a group.  … A lot of relationships have been built from that shop, and it’s a weird feeling for sure.”

Pearn said the occasion was marked with team members sharing “a few beverages” while they “told old stories and kind of reminisced.”

Visser said Furniture Row Racing “remained a team” in the months since the announcement of its impending closure.

“I am proud of the way they handled this difficult and emotional situation,” Visser said in a media release. “I think everybody who has had an opportunity to work in our shop is probably better for it. I believe they’re better craftsmen and have known or have learned what it takes to be a winner. On the flip side, I do feel a responsibility for moving the guys out here and want to see them get placed. That is very important to me.”

Visser said it will be “hard to give up” a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.

“It’s so rare to get a group of people you like being with, and who accomplish things that other people can’t seem to do,” Visser said. “Pretty special to find that chemistry and the success that comes with it. It’s hard to give it up, but sometimes it’s taken away from you without having any recourse. I just couldn’t keep borrowing money over here to feed it over there. Just had to give it up.”

When it comes to how involved Visser will be in NASCAR going forward, the 69-year-old Vietnam veteran said he hopes to attend some races next season.

“I am a huge racing fan,” Visser said. “I love the cars, love the smell, love the sound and love the people. I will be coming as a guest and fan next year and hope to sit in the stands for a few races. Never did that. My wife and I are looking forward to taking weekend trips to races next year.”